Harm, Failing to Benefit, and the Counterfactual Comparative Account

Utilitas 34 (4):428-444 (2022)
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Abstract

In the literature about harm, the counterfactual comparative account has emerged as a main contender. According to it, an event constitutes a harm for someone iff the person is worse off than they would otherwise have been as a result. But the counterfactual comparative account faces significant challenges, one of the most serious of which stems from examples involving non-harmful omitted actions or non-occurring events, which it tends to misclassify as harms: for example, Robin is worse off when Batman does not give him a new set of golf clubs, but Batman has not harmed him. In this article, I will clearly state the counterfactual comparative account; state and explain this objection to the account; canvass several unsatisfactory responses; and attempt to show how the account can overcome the objection. This solution involves distinguishing between principles concerning the existence of harm and principles concerning attributions of responsibility for harm.

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Justin Klocksiem
New Mexico State University

References found in this work

Why We Should Reject S.Derek Parfit - 1984 - In Reasons and Persons. Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Harming as making worse off.Duncan Purves - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (10):2629-2656.
Causation By Omission: A Dilemma.Sarah McGrath - 2005 - Philosophical Studies 123 (1-2):125-148.
Harm: Omission, Preemption, Freedom.Nathan Hanna - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 93 (2):251-73.

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